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Green Infrastructure Planning Grants Awarded to Fairbanks and Soldotna

DNR/DEC award $84,000 in grants to Alaska communities

(Anchorage, AK) – The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has awarded grants to the cities of Fairbanks and Soldotna for green infrastructure projects that demonstrate innovative methods for preventing water pollution and improving water quality.

Stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces like parking lots, buildings, and roads pollute lakes, rivers, and oceans. Fairbanks and Soldotna will test and demonstrate practices and materials that are new to Alaska and evaluate their effectiveness and cost in northern climates. The projects also meet the goals of the federal economic recovery program of creating jobs and contributing to the local economy.

The Department of Environmental Conservation received stimulus funds for Water Quality Management Planning and partnered with the DNR Community Forestry Program to administer grants to communities.

The City of Fairbanks will receive $44,000 for small‐scale demonstration projects and development of a Green Infrastructure Resource Guide for homeowners. The city will partner with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, GW Scientific, and Fairbanks Soil & Water Conservation District to select green projects to demonstrate based on their feasibility in cold climates, cost, and effectiveness in reducing the quantity of, and pollutants in, runoff.

A team of experts will select five residences through an application process to demonstrate projects such as rain gardens. The city will provide up to $500 in matching funds for materials and/or labor costs. The team will document the construction process by taking “before and after” and “step‐by-step” photographs, and tracking materials, costs, and labor hours.

Information gained through the demonstrations plus design drawings and photographs will be compiled in the Green Infrastructure Resource Guide. The guide will be available at local libraries, the Alaska State Library, Georgeson Botanical Garden, and on various websites.

The Fairbank Soil & Water Conservation District will show how to construct some of the simpler green infrastructure applications, e.g., a rain barrel for water reuse, through several public venues. They will also explain the problems caused by runoff and offer simple and effective solutions.

The City of Soldotna will be granted $40,000 to design and construct the first “green” parking lot on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Watershed Forum will partner with the city to build the parking area in Soldotna Creek Park at the confluence with the Kenai River. The park is located within the core of Soldotna, an ideal location for an education and demonstration project.

The 13-space parking area will demonstrate use of a pervious surface that will allow water and snow melt to soak into the soil rather than carrying sediments and pollutants into the river. Vegetated swales will retain 100 percent of the stormwater on-site during spring thaw and heavy rainfall. Signs will describe the design and benefits of green parking lots.

The city and KWF will monitor the site for two years to evaluate the effectiveness of the design and the materials used. The site plan, design, and lessons learned will be available for other property owners who want to reduce stormwater runoff through on-site retention and permeable surfaces.

In a larger planning effort, the City and KWF will create a map showing high-priority areas within the city that would benefit the most from future on-site stormwater retention projects.

DNR and DEC encourage cities in Alaska to take advantage of the experience Fairbanks and Soldotna will gain and adapt these practices to their conditions. Cities may also improve water quality and reduce the high cost of managing stormwater by maintaining and increasing the most valuable and functional green infrastructure in a city – the trees. Trees, forests, and other natural areas in cities intercept, reduce, and remove pollutants from stormwater, often at a much lower cost than common engineered solutions

The state offers technical and financial assistance to help cities manage trees and forests to maximize their benefits and to develop other green solutions for stormwater treatment. Those with questions may contact Patricia Joyner, DNR’s Community Forestry Program coordinator at (907) 269-8465 or patricia.joyner@alaska.gov. Additional information may be found on the DEC and DNR websites: http://www.dec.alaska.gov/water/ and http://www.dnr.alaska.gov/forestry/community

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